IN A season during which Everton FC continue to challenge perceived notions, there’s one that David Moyes was quite happy to leave be.
Under the Scot’s tutelage, the Goodison outfit earned a reputation for being methodical, cautious, obdurate and prepared to scrap until the very last kick.
The expansive manner of Everton’s play this season, bolstered by the smattering of flair players Moyes has brought into the squad during the past 12 months, has done much to change the image of the team.
That, though, has come at the cost of grinding out the kind of results that gave them a crack at Champions League qualification in 2005.
Back then, Everton earned a reputation for eking out 1-0 wins. For snatching goals at the death. For seeing out games.
The same cannot be said of this Goodison vintage. Their only win by the only goal during the past nine months was in the opening-day triumph over Manchester United, with Moyes’s men having acquired an unwanted habit of frittering away leads, as shown against Fulham, Reading and Norwich City in recent weeks.
That Fulham and Norwich both scored in the closing moments to equalise further added to the angst for Moyes, his team having been outdone at their own game, so to speak.
So it is perhaps with delicious timing that Everton head for the Premier League champions on Saturday.
Rarely has the previous ability to carve out victories, often in the closing moments, been more apparent than at Manchester City, where Everton have won on five of their last eight visits including four of the last five.
And Phil Jagielka, who will continue as skipper at Eastlands in the ongoing absence of the injured Phil Neville, accepts the Goodison outfit must become more ruthless and alert during the closing stages of matches.
“We’re playing well but we aren’t finishing teams off that we should be beating,” he says.
“It was the same against Norwich last Saturday, we allowed them back into the game and it was another sickener to lose a goal so late in the match.
“You can’t look at games and say ‘this is where we should get three points’ or ‘this is where we’ll take a point’, you have to take what you can.
“Even if you draw six matches on the spin at least you’re picking up points.
“Because we’ve started so well, I can understand people getting carried away and expecting us to win every game but it doesn’t work like that in the Premier League.
“The time to judge whether or not some of your drawn games are one point gained or two points lost will be next May.”
Moyes takes his team to Eastlands on Saturday for the first time since Tim Cahill, so often the scourge of City, departed Goodison for New York Red Bulls.
New heroes must emerge. And, with injuries beginning to bite into a small squad, summer signings Bryan Oviedo and Steven Naismith have shown an appetite to step up to the plate.